Snakehead any of the members of the freshwater fish family Channidae, order Channiformes. Often known as Murrels, the snakeheads can be recognised by the shape of their head which resembles that of a snake. These fishes are elongated, more or less cylindrical with long, entirely soft-rayed dorsal and anal fins, large mouth with toothed jaws and palate, and head depressed with large shield-scale above. They have two accessory air-breathing pharyngeal air cavities.
Snakeheads live in the freshwater bodies like ponds, swampy areas, flood plains, reservoirs, lakes, and rivers. All of them are carnivorous and mainly feed on different aquatic organisms with special preferences for fishes. Snakeheads are highly esteemed as food, but also considered as a pest-fish since they mostly live on other native fishes. They are monogamous and show highly developed parental care. Nest building behaviour is prominent in these fishes. During breeding time (pre-monsoon and monsoon) they build their nest by grassy vegetation under water near the shore or 1-1BD meter under water, in where, after mating the female lay their eggs and simultaneously the eggs are fertilized by males. Nests are guarded by parents until hatchlings come out. Hatchlings are found to move in a shoal with a continuous diving (up and down) manner under the guidance of parents who stay beneath, in front or behind the shoal.
The five snakehead fish species known from Bangladesh with their local names in parenthesis are: Channa punctatus (taki), C. striatus (shhol), C. marulius (gajar), C. barca (tila shhol), and C. orientalis (Cheng). Although once were abundantly found all over Bangladesh in ditches, beels, swamps etc they are becoming scarce during the recent years. These fishes are very susceptible to the disease epizootic ulcerative syndrome which is considered to be one of the principal contributing factor for their decline. [Mohammad Ali Azadi]